Speaking English “a great offence”

Catching up with a story that fell of the end of the day a few days ago, Wendy Murdoch reports on this bizarre display of entitleitis.

A Waitangi Tribunal claimant is taking the tribunal to court for stopping her lawyer asking questions in te reo of English-speaking witnesses.

The lawyer for Te Rohe Potae claimant Liane Green said it was an irony that a judge in what was probably the only judicial forum in New Zealand where te reo was regularly spoken should have ruled that lawyer Alex Hope could not use te reo Maori to cross-examine English-speaking witnesses.

Lawyer Karen Feint told Justice Alan MacKenzie in the High Court in Wellington today that the ruling Judge David Ambler made at a hearing in Te Kuiti a year ago and backed up in a written judgment in February had undermined the mana of te reo and demeaned it as a language, giving it a lower status than English.

Judge Ambler’s ruling had been wrong, she said.  

Green has asked the High Court to review his decision.

Feint said the Maori Language Commission did not want Judge Ambler’s decision to create a precedent that would deter the use of te reo in judicial proceedings.

Green had wanted Hope, who is fluent in te reo, to speak Maori whenever possible before the tribunal in presenting the claim, which incorporates a claim for loss of language.

Simultaneous translation was available at the tribunal, so proceedings were not delayed.

Judge Ambler, who is also a fluent te reo speaker, overstated the concern that translating the questions would delay the hearing, Feint said.

You get the feeling this is similar to requesting a meeting to end a war, but the first 50 meetings are about the size of the room, the shape of the table, who stands and sits where, what colours are permitted, and so on.

I would think it common sense that if a defendant is more comfortable in one language over the other (both being official), and the questioner is able to use that language, it is only practical and courteous to do so.

But no, this is cultural affront.

To think these people are paid for what they do makes me sick.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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